Monday, October 6, 2008

The Future belongs to ME! (apparently!)

6.30am saw me standing in the college playground waiting with DS, who is off on a school trip for two days. 6.30am is not a time that I usually see, except from underneath my duvet, or more likely underneath a cat which is asleep on my duvet, which is on me.

6.30am is also not a time that I find speaking any language, never mind French, an easy task but nevertheless, I found myself standing with one of the French Papas doing my best to get my half-asleep mouth around my vowels and my somnolent throat around the odd rolled 'r'. He was talking to me (and one of the other English mums) about carbon neutral insulation, and low CO2 boilers. This is a conversation I would struggle to have mid-morning after a healthy 8 hours sleep, never mind after about 2 hours at 6.30am. I have vague recollections of the mention of 'poil' (fur or hair) and Swedish boilers. Maybe someone call fill in the missing bits for me.

He did kindly e-mail me an old French proverb this morning though

L'avenir appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt!
Mais aussi:
L'avenir appartient à ceux qui ont des ouvriers qui se lèvent tôt!

The future belongs to those who get up early (that'll be me then!)
but also:
The future belongs to those who have workers who get up early (OK, OK, I'll share!)

J, the papa was obviously in philosophical mood as he cast his eye over the group of 11 and 12 year old children. 'This is the future of France' he said. McDonald's will be pleased, I thought. So many to choose from! We all know that égalité (equality) doesn't really exist in France except in the minds of the Government who force feed it to the proletariat in the hope that they won't notice that a ruling élite is still being groomed in the Grands Ecoles of Paris. Ooh er! What's happening to the Capitalist in me? That's sounds vaguely left wing to me!

One thing that will be different for them is their language. The Robert, the French version of the Oxford English Dictionary, has changed the spelling of over 6000 words to reflect modern usage and to simplify it for people learning French. From now on, foreign words which have entered the French language like Pizzeria and Kebab (see how international our cuisine is!) can now be written with an accent over the e (pizzéria, kébab) to frenchify them. Well, I guess if you can't beat em, join em! The Académie Française, charged with maintaining the purity of the French language, has long resisted the introduction of foreign words without success. So, if you can't get rid of them, make them sound French and everyone is happy.

From now on too, mots composés, words that are made up from two words joined together, like 'porte-monnaie' and 'pop-corn' can be written with or without the hyphen and words like 'évènements' (events) a long-time bête noire of children's school dictées (dictations - yes, they still do them) can now be written as it is pronounced 'événements'.

The media is in uproar, the comments page on Le Figaro's website has nearly 300 comments and climbing, most of them saying things like 'un nation de crétins' (a nation of cretins - doesn't really need a translation does it!), 'changer votre Robert pour Larousse à cause de trahison' (change your Robert for a Larousse (another dictionary) because of their betrayal), 'Paul Robert doit se retourner dans sa tombe' (Paul Robert must be turning in his grave), 'M. Alain Rey devrait prendre sa retraite. D'urgence.' (Alain Rey, the editor of the dictionary, should retire as soon as possible). He's also a gauchist apparently so that's why he's singlehandedly trashing the French language. Well, not quite single-handedly (!) as it appears also to be the fault of the presenters of the weather forecasts and of ex-footballers who've become sports commentators. Many commentators (as in those that comment rather than the commentators themselves . Boy can you tell I had an early morning!) believe that their prononciation of the language is so poor that the youth are starting to write phonetically. Oh, and don't forget texting!

Probably not the right time to remind them that up to the 17th century they spoke Latin in France.


Personally it doesn't go far enough for me. When I'm President I shall dispense with all tenses except present, future and past - I mean, do you really need a whole tense just for the written word? How greedy is that! All nouns will take 'le' and there will be no agreement with nouns - no, not even if they go on strike. Better still, I'll make them all speak English.

Vote for me! Vote for me!


Lindsay said...

Your posting skills have not diminished with the early morning start!

kissa said...

Bonjour!I have found your blog and read a few posts. Last post the chaps photos are Windsor Davies, Jasper Carrot and Roger Whittaker or maybe not? I'll come by again.

blogthatmama said...

VLiF, you'd miss all of this if you moved back to England, wouldn't you? blogthatmamax

Stew said...

Your man was saying "le poêle" which is pronounced the same as poil, but it means the stove, normaly referring to the woodburning range in the kitchen.

In typically french chauvinist style "la poêle" means frying pan.

(Very) Lost in France said...

Lindsay - thanks, you are a sweetheart! VLiF

Kissa, welcome to my blog. I shall pop over and see yours soon. VLiF

(Very) Lost in France said...

BTM - yeah, really!! VLiF

Stew, welcome to my blog. See, I told you it was early! He was of course talking about poêles not poil.VLiF

Working mum said...

Sound like the Welsh language people to me. They make up Welsh words to sound like the English ones, but have to be written the Welsh way!

I'm starting a campaign to keep the adverb, you know "He played badly" not "He played bad". It's an Americanism that's invaded the UK and I just want to scream "Ly, ly it's an adverb!!". Perhaps I'm getting too uptight about it ......

Hadriana's Treasures said...

I'm afraid I agree with working mum and the adverb. I got my French to a fairly decent level when I was working for Credit Lyonnais but it has been a downhill slide from thereon in! Never could handle the grave and acute accent too well. (Very sorry to hear about best friend's sister...very sad....)

(Very) Lost in France said...

WM - have you ever watched a Hindi movie? Every sentence is sprinkled with English words. It's bizarre. Always makes me think of when I was doing my safety training in my cabin crew days. The trainer asked one of the arab boys 'what's arabic for D-ring'. He looked at him and said 'D-ring'! Keep those Americanisms out of the English language. Man the barricades.... ! VLiF

(Very) Lost in France said...

Hadriana - You'll love the French language when I've been voted in. Accents? Pah! VLiF